Doug's 2015 Christmas Greeting

Merry Christmas - Doug McCann“In every conceivable manner, the family is link to our past, bridge to our future”
                ― Alex Haley
When they said it takes a community to raise a child, they must have been talking about (Parry Sound Public Elementary) "Victory School"!
Throughout this year I have had the pleasure of being involved with a local committee formed to create a commemorative book and DVD set in celebration of Parry Sound's oldest and longest serving school.  It was built in 1917 and opened in September of 1918.  In January of 1919 it was named "Victory School", in honour of the victory of allied forces of World War I.  For 97 years, this mighty, three-floor building of bricks, mortar, plaster and wood garnered a great sense of community, but it wasn't the building, rather the generations of families and staff who would come together claiming ownership, commitment and loyalty.  To speak of the ties that bind, one would defer to what we call today, 'old fashioned values' which seem to have culminated in such a kindred community within the school.  Its doors closed for the final time on June 26th this year.

Christmas Message 2015 - Doug McCannNow, even though it is not uncommon to find close-knit communities within small schools, there was something extra special setting Victory apart from other schools.  Very often it can take just one individual to impress upon and to lead an entire community.  I came to learn of one particular individual who served some 35 years in the school's earlier days and who would be known by today's definition as a game changer. Harry Tate was a teacher, a principal and a visionary.  He promoted and insisted on the practice of those 'old fashioned values' and because of his genuineness, generations of staff, students and families followed suit and returned the respect and admiration for his sincerity and his 'walk the talk' example.

As a result of Mr. Tate's efforts, Victory School spawned a community in which vulnerable kids wouldn't fall through the cracks, where every child was individually encouraged and where the Home and School Club comprised of parents and staff came together for the benefit of the students' education and development.  At Victory it was always about the community - and, about the family.

Parry Sound Victory SchoolFor nearly 100 years, Victory School was for the people, a 'go to', place - a haven, a home away from home, where people came together to help and to rely on one another.  Times were not always easy, especially through the Great Depression and times of war and unemployment, but strength in values, character and neighbourly love was the objective to forge a better place in the community and the world.  It's something of which we are reminded at this time of year; "Peace on earth, good will toward men".  At Victory, folks took comfort in learning and knowing that wealth and material possession were not prerequisites for an accomplished life, and through good and bad, one's association with the school meant inclusion in a welcoming community.

The United States' 18th President, Ulysses S. Grant, said,  "The friend in my adversity I shall always cherish most.
I can better trust those who helped to relieve the gloom of my dark hours than those who are so ready to enjoy with me the sunshine of my prosperity."  I thought about how applicable Grant's words are to the kind of legacy Victory School now leaves behind and not because times were always difficult, but that through the people's shared and common experiences, was camaraderie.  People from age 12 to 97 associated with the school and representing nearly every decade of the school's existence conveyed their first hand observations on how family and community were indeed the ties that bind and carried the generations over the years.  A pastor once remarked he never knew anyone on their death bed to ask for their bank or pocket book, but rather for family and friends.

Quite fitting are the words of Alex Haley, "In every conceivable manner, the family is link to our past, bridge to our future".  This quote lends well to the significance of this commemorative project.  Have you ever noticed how many families seem to have that one place to go, a common venue like a parent's home, a grandmother's house, or a special aunt's place?  It's there where everyone seems to congregate, perhaps for Sunday dinner, an impromptu visit, or holiday get-togethers.  Like Victory School, may your family be blessed with such a loving place in which your common paths, values and life's lessons, triumphs and tribulations be remembered and treasured.  May this be your bridge to future generations.  And so our Christmas wish this year is that your family remains strong and unified.  We wish you health and happiness throughout this Christmas season and for the New Year, 2016!

Merry Christmas & Happy New Year in 2016!
Doug & Josey McCann